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[AIDS/HIV fundraising]

Showroom for change

Suite Charity is making a big difference in an even bigger building

If your only glimpse of World Market Center has been from the I-15, trust me, you haven’t seen it. Once you park and begin the dizzying journey toward its three interconnected edifices, Buildings A through C, you can’t help but look up as you walk, wondering exactly how big this friggin’ thing is. On Building C’s side, a solid wall without windows soars into the sky, making you feel as though you’re walking smack-dab into some Big Brother, Brazil-type world. Once you’re in the center of the courtyard, however, the whole thing comes into focus—glass aplenty on Building B, Building A’s design looking like a smile that can be seen from space, and Building C getting some TLC from a paint crew that looks like an ant climbing El Capitan. For a brief moment, this becomes the only place on the planet, and the recession becomes a faint memory.

Intimidating as hell? Uhhh ... yeah! Impersonal? Absolutely not. The hundreds of furniture showrooms within the doors of Buildings A and C—both of which, by the way, have opened their first two floors to the general public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday—that supply stores throughout the globe with product lines are also helping a great many Las Vegas Valley charities on an ongoing basis.

More

From the Archives
Furniture wars (7/21/09)
Inside World Market (8/04/05)
Beyond the Weekly
The Affair to Remember
Nevada AIDS Project

One of those charities not only receives help year-round from World Market Center, but it’s also a tenant. Suite Charity, created in June 2007 by Nevada AIDS Project Executive Director Dennis Dunn, sells merchandise donated by the various showrooms and uses the proceeds for ongoing AIDS and HIV education and prevention programs. It also helps fulfill the needs of most of the other charities in town. It’s been open to the public since its inception and boasts a clientele list in the thousands, despite the complete lack of an advertising campaign.

Suite Charity is sponsored by the American Society of Interior Designers, which is also an integral part of WMC, staffing full-time designers through the on-site Design Salon, who help customers purchase furnishings and provide interior design advice (it’s free for the first hour).

The nonprofit’s genesis was nearly instantaneous, as Dunn tells it: His Nevada AIDS Project, which he founded in 2005 and which became a tenant in WMC with a fundraising art gallery in 2006, facilitated a pre-market inventory clearance sale sponsored by ASID in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and Opportunity Village in 2007, with the $10 entry fee for the event going to the charity and the rest going to the showrooms. “There was so much left over, and we didn’t have the space to store it. I proposed [creating Suite Charity] in the morning, and it was approved by that afternoon.”

As Dunn describes it, WMC has been an incredibly accommodating host, providing all the room and resources the nonprofit needs at its own expense—Suite Charity has moved several times from building to building as the amount of merchandise has increased. It is currently in Building C, and uses 10,000 square feet to store and sell couches, chairs, beds, artwork, lighting, tchotchkes, coffee tables—just about everything you would need to redecorate your home, and all at prices 20 to 40 percent less than you’d pay in the store. Perhaps best of all, the merchandise available there isn’t even for sale yet, or is perhaps even discontinued, offering the chance to snag a truly unique armoire or love seat.

Andrew Maiden, public relations manager for WMC, says Suite Charity has been a win-win for the center; the charity raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, customers find great buys, and the showrooms save money by not having to pay to have their wares shipped back home and stored someplace.

Suite Charity has also proven a great training ground for students from art institutes across the Valley, who come to volunteer and practice staging. And any furniture that comes in dinged up or scratched beyond repair is donated to local schools for productions. “Nothing is just thrown in the Dumpster,” Dunn says.

Art is also a big part of Suite Charity. Working with the art community as he did while running the art gallery, Dunn sells artists’ work at a 20 percent markup (it’s normally 40 and up at galleries), with 20 percent going to the artist and the rest to charity. “Local art is a big part of what this is,” Dunn says.

His relationship with the art community continues with an art auction on May 1 on the 16th floor of Building B (see Theaffairtoremember.org for more details).

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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